Knicks' Obi Toppin looking to take leap in second season: 'It’s going to be a lot different'

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Obi Toppin alley-oop dunk black uniform Hawks Game 2
Obi Toppin alley-oop dunk black uniform Hawks Game 2

Obi Toppin took a few days off at the end of the Knicks season to get off his feet and re-charge. After three or four days away from the gym, Toppin returned to the Knicks practice facility to work with coaches and some of his teammates. He seems motivated to take a big step forward in 2021-22.

“I’m working really hard in this offseason to be better for my second season coming up. And it’s going to be a lot different than the first season,” Toppin said Wednesday night after practice with the USA Men’s Select Team in Las Vegas.

In the regular season, Toppin averaged four points and two rebounds in 11 minutes per game as a rookie. He was playing behind Julius Randle, who was having an All-NBA season. So Toppin wasn’t getting a lot of playing time.

In the minutes he was on the floor, Toppin was inconsistent. That’s what you’d expect from rookies, but the Knicks had said Toppin, 22, was the most polished offensive player in the draft. From that perspective, his performance in the regular season was jarring.

But Toppin played well in the postseason. Against Atlanta, he averaged 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. Toppin was one of the few Knicks who raised their production against the Hawks.

Toppin, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, was asked on Wednesday if his postseason play gave him more confidence heading into the offseason.

“It definitely was a confidence booster. I felt myself getting better,” Toppin said. “But at the same time, I feel like it was just the work that I was putting in every single day before that and I just stuck to what I know. My teammates had confidence in me and had confidence that I was going to do what I had to do on the court.”

Toppin is spending this week in Las Vegas, training with the Team USA Select Team. The roster includes teammate Immanuel Quickley and is filled with other top young players in the league. The team will scrimmage against the Men’s National Team as the club gears up for the Tokyo Olympics.

Knicks coaches told Toppin to ‘be a sponge’ with the Select Team. It seems like Toppin is doing just that.

“Having the opportunity to learn under the coaches here and be able to play with these players, I’m learning a lot and I’m going to translate it to my game in the upcoming season and be better,” he said.

Toppin and Quickley both plan to play with the Knicks’ Summer League team in Las Vegas. One question for the Knicks in the offseason surrounding Toppin is this: does the team feel he’s ready to play 15 minutes per night behind Randle. Or does New York need to acquire another player to fill that role?